Being released within months of two of the most highly anticipated “team” (as in The A-) action movies, The Losers certainly had its work cut out for it. Based on the comic series from DC’s Vertigo imprint, this comparatively low-budget tale of former Special Forces soldiers betrayed by an malevolent CIA agent was sadly lost in the shuffle of Spring/Summer blockbusters, and failed to generate the pre-release buzz of the aforementioned The A-Team” and Sylvester Stallone’s testosterone-fueled, all-star bonanza, The Expendables, despite packing a heck of a wallop of its own. With a cast featuring Watchmen fave, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, The Wire’s Idris Alba, and the white-hot Zoe Saldana, the sorely overlooked tongue-in-cheek actioner now makes its debut on DVD and Blu-ray.
Morgan stars as Clay, the leader of a quintet of the military’s finest operatives consisting of the surly Roque (Alba); whiz-kid, Jensen (Chris Evans); marksman, Cougar (Oscar Jaenada), and all-around MacGyver-type, Pooch (Columbus Short). The team has been dispatched to Bolivia to put the kibosh on a drug operation, but, when they discover that the cartel are using children as mules, Clay deviates from the plan, much to the chagrin of their CIA benefactor, Max (Jason Patric). With the children in tow, Clay and his men reach the evacuation point, and, seeing as how there’s not enough room for everyone, load the kids onto the chopper and stay behind. As the helicopter lifts off, however, Jensen intercepts a message from Max, who, thinking that Clay is aboard, issues orders that the helicopter be destroyed. Devastated, the team toss their dog tags into the flaming wreckage, and plan their revenge as “dead men”.
Four months later, still living in Bolivia, Clay meets Aisha (Saldana), an ass-kicking, well-connected operative who is just as consumed with Max as Clay and his men. She offers to bankroll a “suicide mission” to take Max down, and Clay agrees despite the increasingly agitated Roque’s protests. Roque just wants to clear their names and go back to his old life, and he thinks that Clay’s too blinded by Aisha’s beauty to see her for the opportunist she is. The mission to capture Max goes swimmingly, save for one small detail; Max is nowhere to be found. Instead, the team discovers a hard drive containing all of the CIA agents financial assets – assets he needs to purchase weapons with which he intends to start a full-scale global conflict. Matters are further complicated by the fact that Max now knows Clay and his men are alive, and he plans to use that to his advantage.
The Losers is a full-on action spectacle that never deviates from its comic book origins. From its cackling-mad ultra-conservative antagonist's world domination plans and titular characters’ wise-cracking heroics to director, Sylvain White’s, highly-stylized and ultra-saturated aesthete, The Losers is very much a comic book come to life. Those who’ve read the collection will instantly recognize many of the characters as White’s adherence to the source material is uncompromising (save, of course, for Alba’s Roque, who, in the comic, is white, and far less likeable) to a fault. This is a double-edged sword, however, as, while fans of the series will embrace the cartoonish action and violence, those expecting anything broaching on realism will be sorely disappointed. I liken The Losers to the Transporter series of films, in which the Bugs Bunny physics and exaggerated PG-13 action are precisely what makes them so entertaining, so, if you’re a fan of such things, The Losers will certainly deliver the goods. However, if you’re the type who looks for graphic violence and levity in their action films, well, you’re shit out of luck.
Warner Brothers releases The Losers on Blu-ray in a 2.40:1 transfer that’s as highly saturated and vibrant as just about anything I’ve come across. The film’s scorching color palette (think CSI: Miami, and then up the contrast about 1,000 %) comes across marvelously, with ultra bright hues of orange, red, and yellow set against lush, velvety blacks. Fine detail is apparent throughout, as is a subdued and very natural amount of cinematic grain, lending the stylized image a welcome sense of grunginess. The knock-out visuals are complimented by an aggressively mixed (ie: LOUD AS FUCK) DTS HD Master Audio track that will rock your socks off if you (and your neighbors) let it. Bass is a constant, with gut-rumbling explosions, percussive weapons fire, and a rip-roaring soundtrack mixing classic rock ditties with modern rock face melters. Dialogue is crisp and clear, mixed up front and center, while spatial effects work all corners of the room. It’s a package that looks and sounds as over-the-top as the film’s plot, and it’s a blast to behold.
The smattering of extras are the only disappointment, here, as Warner has opted not to include their usual host of next-gen supplements and saddle The Losers with just a few short featurettes, a single deleted scene, and a couple of trailers. Also included is a brief look at the upcoming (as of this writing) original animated Batman film, Under the Red Hood. The featurettes are well put together (and presented in HD), but a PiP commentary would have gone a long way toward redeeming the set in terms of extra value.
While The A-Team and The Expendables benefitted from massive advertising campaigns and clever viral marketing, The Losers simply came and went with little-to-no-fanfare. Hopefully, this “little” film will find the audience it deserves on home video, as it’s a hip, hugely entertaining, and meticulously well-crafted action film that fearlessly embraces its comic book origins. The Blu-ray presentation from Warner Brothers is stellar save for the somewhat lackluster collection of extras, and comes highly recommended to audiences who like their action and side-splitting humor served in equal doses. Definitely one to add to the short list.